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Microsoft's Dynamics Power Play

Six years ago, when Microsoft bought enterprise resource planning software vendor Great Plains, it truly found a diamond in the rough -- or, in this case, on the prairie of North Dakota.

Great Plains brought with it solid functionality, a good reputation for service and one of the most loyal partner bases in the technology industry. It also brought with it customers who would walk through fire for founder Doug Burgum, an old-school technology guy who genuinely seemed to have a passion for his product and his people.

And along with all that came Tami Reller, the Microsoft Business Solutions executive most observers thought would take over as head of the Dynamics product line following Satya Nadella's move to the company's Search and Ad Platform group. The popular Reller has the support of lots of partners and certainly knows the Dynamics products and the ERP market as well as anyone in Redmond. But she didn't get the job.

In an RCPmag.com exclusive, Barbara Darrow revealed on Friday that Kirill Tatarinov, a corporate vice president and five-year Microsoft veteran, will take over as the head of Microsoft Business Solutions (and, therefore, of the Dynamics product line).

This appears, at least on the surface, to be a pure Microsoft power play. We don't know, of course, exactly why Reller didn't get the gig that many expected and wanted her to get, but RCPU suspects that her background has something to do with it. It's been hard enough for Microsoft to explain what it's doing with the four Dynamics product lines; its messaging on to what extent they'll come together as one product or remain separate still doesn't always make a lot of sense. But Microsoft has had another issue with Dynamics -- a cultural issue.

Despite its Redmond-enforced name change, many partners and customers still refer to Dynamics GP as Great Plains. And many still feel -- or want to feel -- a certain sense of independence from Microsoft. Great Plains, after all, had one of the most positive and participatory cultures in the technology industry when it was an independent company; its partners and customers were (and still are) fiercely loyal. Great Plains was even the originator of the Convergence trade show, which is now Microsoft's business-applications showcase.

But while Microsoft has surely benefited from having Great Plains' ultra-positive, super-happy culture infused into MBS and Dynamics, it's not the type of company to let its acquisitions have too much autonomy -- and hearing people walk around the convention center in San Diego talking about "Great Plains" instead of Dynamics GP had to furrow the brows of a few Microsoft higher-ups. In all likelihood, then, Reller's prairie roots probably hurt her chances of running Dynamics. And, while we don't want to dismiss Tatarinov, that's a shame. Reller was popular, dynamic and capable, all qualities that Microsoft -- or any company -- looks for in an executive.

But she was also from Great Plains, and with Burgum gone from Microsoft altogether (to do what, we're not sure -- although we suspect he and Reller might chat soon), maybe Redmond saw the opportunity to seize control of MBS and make it more of a dyed-in-the-wool Microsoft unit and less of a colony that's run in large part by ex-Great Plains execs.

What impact this will have on Dynamics as a whole and Dynamics GP in particular, we don't know. Old-school Great Plains partners and customers will likely not be fond of the move, but if they want to stick by their product, they're just going to have to live with it.

What's your take on Tami Reller not getting the big MBS job? If you're a GP partner, how do you feel about Great Plains losing its identity within Microsoft? Let me know at lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on 07/02/2007 at 1:21 PM


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